"He is going to take some lumps as a hitter facing older guys but it will only help him," said Thunder Manager Bill Masse. "When he comes back next year, he'll have a half a year of older pitching under his belt. I don't think it will ever hurt a position player. It can only help him."
Gardner was batting .323 in 63 games with 22 RBI and 30 stolen bases with the Tampa Yankees before he came to Trenton. Last season, he hit .284 with five home runs and 32 RBI in 73 games helping the Staten Island Yankees win the New York Penn League Championship.
Gardner is the 13th rated prospect in the Yankees Minor League System according to Baseball America and was the Yankees third round draft pick in 2005. Gardner's quick move through the system so far is in part due to his own quickness.
Gardner is lightning fast and uses that to his advantage as much as possible whether on the base paths or at home plate.
"The bunt is a huge weapon that not everybody has," said Thunder hitting coach Ralph Dickinson. "Speed never takes a day off. It gives him an extra opportunity to get on base and that's a big advantage."
Gardner works on his bunting just as much as his hitting and he knows what his role is as that leadoff guy.
"I know my job is to get on base and make things happen and apply pressure to the defense," Gardner said. "Even if I don't bunt, they think I may bunt which brings the defense in and opens up some holes so that helps add to my game."
Gardner made his presence known immediately as he hit safely in his first six games with the Thunder and is not afraid to ask for help, not only from the manager and coaches, but his teammates. Gardner has consulted with Justin Christian on stealing bases and Tyler Clippard on adjusting to Double-A ball.
"We talk a little bit on certain things and I watch him when he is on base," said Christian, who leads the Eastern league with 44 stolen bases. "He knows what to do out there and if I notice something, I'll point it out."
Clippard, who is now Gardner's roomate at Trenton, talked to him when he first got here about the differences between high A and double AA.
"He has rolled with it and starting to come around with it, and he'll be a great player," Clippard said. "He has so many tools and is developing and learning faster than most guys."
Gardner is working hard and improving each day and says his goal is to just play a good hard ball game and play every day like it's his last.
Gardner is excelling at a young age and will look to be a staple at the top of a Thunder lineup hoping to win the Eastern League Championship.